Exactly two years on from the liberation of Mosul from Daesh (ISIS), only 40 Christians at most have returned home to Iraq’s second city.
Father Amanuel Adel Kloo, the only priest in Mosul, said most of the faithful are still too afraid to return to the city whose Christian roots date back 1,800 years or more.
As many as 15,000 Christians lived in Mosul before the Islamist take-over in mid-2014 and, before the fall of Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein in 2003, the faithful numbered 35,000.
In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need marking the second anniversary of Iraq’s government declaration of victory over Daesh in Mosul (July 9, 2017), Father Kloo said barely 40 Christians were now living in the city.
He said: “There are a very small number of Christians [in Mosul] now because people are still afraid.”
Amid reports of continuing pro-Islamist sentiment in the city and widespread insecurity, Father Kloo said that many Christians were willing to come to Mosul during the day but were too afraid to stay the night.
The priest reported that up to 1,000 Christians studying at Mosul University commute daily from the nearby Nineveh plains and as far away as Dohuk, in the far north of the country.
Hundreds more Christians are employed to work in Mosul, he said.
Father Kloo said he hoped his plans to restore a church complex in Mosul would encourage more Christians to return to the city.
Describing his mission in Mosul as to “serve beneath the Cross”, Father Kloo said the reconstruction of the Church of the Annunciation – one of the first churches to be repaired since the ouster of Daesh – was an important sign for Christians in the city.
The Syriac Catholic priest said: “We hope that the church will be open in three months [and] that when it opens a lot of people will come.
“We still need other things to help people come back – we need a school, we need a housing complex for people who are poor and don’t have enough money to rebuild their own houses. I am hopeful that hundreds of people will return.”
Father Kloo said it was very difficult to encourage people to believe in a future for Christians in Mosul.
When Daesh seized the city in June 2014, Christians fled en masse after being forced to choose between conversion or death, and during the Islamists’ occupation of Mosul, there were mass executions and slavery.
Other acts of genocide included the requisition of Christian homes which were daubed with ‘n’ for Nazarene – meaning Christians – and churches destroyed or turned over for military use.
Aid to the Church in Need has prioritized emergency help for Iraqi Christians fleeing Daesh and, since the liberation of Nineveh, has helped restore homes, churches and other structures there to enable the faithful to return home with reports that 9,130 families – 46 percent of the 2014 total – are now back.